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Additional District Magistrate V. Shivkant Shukla (1976)

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landmark judgement LAW INSIDER IN

Equivalent citations: 1976 AIR 1207, 1976 SCR 172

Date of Judgment: 28/04/1976

Case No: N/A

Case Type: Criminal Appeal

Petitioner: Additional District Magistrate, Jabalpur

Respondent: Shivkant Shukla etc.

Bench:

  • Hon’ble Justice A.N. Ray (CJ)
  • Hon’ble Justice H.R. Khanna
  • Hon’ble Justice M.H. Beg
  • Hon’ble Justice Y.V. Chandrachud
  • Hon’ble Justice P.N. Bhagwati

Court: Supreme Court of India

Statutes Referred: The Constitution of India

Facts:

  • Indira Gandhi’s Lok Sabha election was challenged in the Allahabad High Court on the account of allegations that she was indulged in corruption and malpractices to win elections where Justice Jagmohansinha ruled and held Gandhi’s Election to be void and also barred her from holding office for 6 years and participating in any future elections.
  • So, Indira Gandhi moved to Supreme Court against the decision of Allahabad High Court but was granted conditional stay.
  • She started losing her political power, so to regain her power, Indira Gandhi requested President Fakruddin Ali to declare the emergency using powers conferred by Article 352 of the Indian Constitution. So, on 25 June, 1976, National Emergency was declared by the President on the account of “Internal Disturbances”.
  • Further using powers conferred under Article 359(1) on 27 June, 1975, the President suspended the rights of Indian citizens as well as of foreigners given to them under Article 14 (Right to Equality), Article 21 (Right to life and Personal Liberty) and Article 22 (Prevention against Detention). Also, all the proceedings regarding enforcement of above-mentioned rights were also suspended till the period of emergency.
  • Following this, under the pretense of Preventative detention, any person who was suspected to be a political threat or Indira Gandhi critic was taken into the custody. A.B. Vajpayee, Jay Prakash Narayan and Morarji Desai were among the numerous political figures that were detained under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act, 1971. This act empowered the government to confine anybody in detention without holding a proper trial.
  • So, the people who was detained under this Act approached to High Court by filing a writ petition of Habeas Corpus for illegal detention and also challenged the provisions of Article 359 and claimed that their rights under Article 21 and 22 were infringed. Because so many High Courts upheld these petitions, the Indira Gandhi government brought the case to the Supreme Court, where it was famously known as Additional District Magistrate, Jabalpur v. Shivakant Shukla.

Issues Involved:

  • Whether the writ petition of Habeas Corpus is maintainable for enforcing the Rights under Article 14, Article 21 and Article 22 of Indian Constitution which was suspended by President during emergency using powers conferred under Article 359(1)?
  • If such writ petition is maintainable then what will be the scope of judicial scrutiny over Presidential order?

Contentions of Petitioner:

The counsel for the Petitioner contended that:

  •  The welfare and interests of the State are of the utmost importance during an emergency, the executive branch was granted certain discretionary powers for effective implementation of law and order in the country.
  • Additionally, it was contended that the President had suspended all rights under Article 359(1) for the duration of the emergency, so the state would not release the detainee even though it would violate his fundamental rights guaranteed by Article 22. Also, the writ petition of Habeas Corpus will not be maintainable for enforcement of such rights.
  • Further it was contended that the Presidential order regarding emergency under Article 358 and Article 359(1) is made within the provisions of Constitution, thus it cannot be questioned in the court of law and is necessary for the nation’s military and economic security.

Contentions of Respondents:

The counsel for respondents contended that:

  • It was contended by the respondents that the Article 359(1) only aimed to restrict the citizens to move to Supreme Court for the enforcement of certain rights under Article 32, and not to limit the enforcement of common law and statutory rights of Personal Liberty under Article 226 in High Court.
  • Further it was contended that such Presidential order may restrict fundamental rights, but it may not extend to natural law or any other law.
  • The respondents also contended that whenever any law for detention is made, then the detention must be made only within the provisions of such Act. Any detention that goes beyond what the Act allows would be deemed to be ultra vires to the Act.
  • It was contended that the executive branch should not exceed its authority and undertake legislative functions, as this would go against the primary goal of the Constitution writers.

Judgment:

  • The judgment was given by 5 Judge constitutional bench in the 4:1 ratio in which the dissenting opinion was given by the Justice Khanna.
  • The majority view was that during emergency no person can move to Courts for the enforcement of their fundamental rights.
  • It was held that the Presidential order passed on 27 June, 1975 was valid and according to that order, no person has any locus standi to move any writ petition under Article 226 before a High Court for Habeas corpus or any other writ or order or direction to challenge the legality of an order of detention on the ground that the order is not under or in compliance with the Act or is illegal or is vitiated by malafides factual or legal or is based on extraneous consideration.
  • Also, all the judgments passed by High Courts regarding detention was set aside.
  • Where as Justice Hans Raj Khanna gave dissenting opinion opposing majority view. Justice Khanna said that the sanctity of life and liberty was not something new and it existed even before the enforcement of Constitution. The State cannot deprive a person of his Life and Liberty without the authority of law. No one can be denied their right to life or personal liberty when an emergency is declared since only the procedural authority of Article 21 is limited, not the substantive power.
  • Justice HR Khanna said “Without such sanctity of life and liberty, the distinction between a lawless society and one governed by laws would cease to have any meaning.”

Ratio Decidendi:

The order passed by President on 27 June, 1975 restricted citizens from bringing petitions under Article 226 of the Constitution for enforcing their fundamental rights. The decision of the judges was based on the rationale that “in period of public danger or apprehension the protective law which gives every man security and confidence in times of tranquillity has to give way to interests of the State.” It was also stated that “Liberty is itself the gift of the law and may by the law be forfeited or abridged.” So in the times of Emergency the interest of State is of utmost importance and takes precedence over public confidence and rights.

Obiter Dicta

N/A

Conclusion

This landmark judgment was criticized a lot. Even in the year 2011, Justice P.N. Bhagwati expressed remorse by saying, “I was wrong, the majority judgment was not good judgment, and if I was ready to make a new decision, then I would agree with what Judge Khanna did. Initially, I was not in favour of the majority opinion, but in the end, I do not know why they convinced me to agree with them, a type of litigation for the first time. Was an act of weakness on my part.”

Later in the year 2017, the judgment of this case was overruled in the case of Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) v. Union of India in which it was held that Right to Privacy is a fundamental right and no civilized state can encroach upon life and Personal Liberty of citizen without the authority of law.

Drafted By: Sargam Bansal

Published on: February 8, 2024 at 13:02 IST